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SIMPLE TRUTHS AND PERSONAL GLIMPSES

This post originally appeared on this blog the summer of 2013.  In three days I head out for vacation and am trying to take the advice in its words, so I thought I’d repost it for you. = STEVE

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BY STEVE DUNN
“First day of Summer supper: Hot dogs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes!!!”
This is what my friend Kay Royer Cocklin posted on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon.  My first response was, “Oh! Yes!!!!!” Made me sad that I had already eaten a bowl of cereal for supper. (My wife is out of town being a grandmother-in-residence and I was too tired after mowing to get very creative.)
Simple things–hot dogs, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes.  Readily accessible to most of us in America. Better than most things you would have popped into a microwave.  A whole lot cheaper than a steak. Except maybe for the hot dogs, a whole lot healthier, too.
Simple pleasures that those of us who have experienced them–quite satisfying.
Choosing the simple and taking pleasure from it tends to be a counter-cultural concept in 21st century America. Smart phones, smart cars, smart houses, constant digital connection, designer clothes, beds with dual comfort controls, specially manufactured golf clubs, 200 channels of satellite TV–the list goes on and grows more complicated by the second.
And so often those things carry complications that drain the last ounce of simplicity from our lives and replace it anxiety and aggravation.  Ever try to talk to cable company computer?  What happens when your smart car enters a dumb phase?  How much will it cost you to fix it? Do you really have to be available to every human being via phone every moment of your day?  Do the manufactured clubs feel any better when you miss the put or shank the drive?  Do you ever stop working to pay for your smart home long enough to actually be in it?
Don’t all the options of life at times just get overwhelming?  Don’t you simply run so much that you find yourself in a rat race where the rats are winning?
Don’t say “no” because I know you’re lying – to yourself as well as me.
Donald Miller writes:  “It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen.  Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is a stroll.  This is how God does things.”

I pretty much missed the first day of summer because I let myself embrace the complicated.  I put too many things in my schedule.  I didn’t stop to savor the sunshine or read a good book.  In fact, I didn’t even look at the calendar to notice that it was the first day of summer.  Ironically, it was my sabbath, my day of rest and refreshment and instead I filled it with the things that I hadn’t gotten done on my work days.

And I forgot the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes.  Didn’t pay much attention to God either.

My loss.

(C) 2103 by Stephen Dunn

Permission is given to repost or quote provided this copyright notice is included and a link provided to this blogsite. The courtesy of an email with a link to its reposting or a copy of the work it is quoted in would be appreciated.

 

4-11-1954

BY STEVE DUNN

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for … These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11.1-2, 39-40

A lot of us live by wishful thinking.  We say and do things that reflect a basic denial of reality.  I cannot tell you how many times as a pastor I heard someone say,”I know what you’re saying, but my experience is different.  I am an exception to that rule.”  Usually what they were saying was, “I want to do what I want to do, but don’t want to be held accountable for my choices.

Before someone accuses me of being a hypocrite or Pharisee,I need to confess something.  Diabetes runs in my family.  Almost 20 years ago my doctors dropped the adjective “borderline” from their diagnosis.  They told me how to combat it, particularly the importance of diet.

I really didn’t make that many changes, except to slow down on regular soft-drinks. I would eat carefully for a few days and then in times of boredom or at buffets, I would abandon all boundaries.  Now hundreds of milk shakes later, I find myself taking drastic measures to get that diabetes under control.

Wishful thinking can be very dangerous, especially when God has made it clear that only His way works.  There are no exceptions to his rules.

But one of his rules is “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  In our faith life some of us are so grounded in being practical or realistic that we think that only the things man controls are to be pursued.  Comfort zones are where we choose to live.  Walking on water is for Jesus and foolish humans. After all, look what happened to Peter.

The problem with that is that God Who always keeps His promises feels no need to provide instant gratification and whose rewards which are eternal start closer to eternity than the present moment.

Be careful of wishful thinking.  If it is contrary to God’s word or way of acting – it is foolishness, often tragically so.

But when God says let go, look beyond, follow me – the foolishness is in our comfort-zone, control-obsessed response.

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

 

By Steve Dunn

Watching the news lately, I have grown tired, very tired. I am tired of ….

Politicians who demonize people and political positions with which they disagree.

Politicians who spin or even ignore the truth that is inconvenient to them but who insist on

accountability and even punishment for others who do the same.

Politicians who believe that they are above the need for civility and respect towards others.

Politicians who demand absolute conformity and support from people who work for them even

when they are wrong.

Politicians who put their mouth in motion before their mind is in gear.

Politicians who don’t know when to simply keep their thoughts to themselves

Politicians who worship political correctness but who believe people who do not agree with

their definition should ostracized.

Politicians who believe that character is a private matter.

Politicians who do not know how to choose their battles.

Politicians who believe people should never question their motives or integrity.

Politicians who believe they are always right.

Political supporters who support these “leaders” unquestioningly and pounce on those who dare to question their pet politician.

Political supporters who always assume the other side is lying.

Political supporters who justify these actions by saying the other side does it, too.

Neither these political leaders nor their uncritical supporters do our nation a service.

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BY STEVE DUNN

I have been in the ministry for 45 years–starting as a youth pastor back in 1971. Since 2008, I have added teaching graduate students in a seminary to my resume. Since last January I have added teaching history to high school students from Korea to my professional mix. I am about to do both again. Monday Morning Reflections this week is late because I am busy completing syllabi, lesson plans and initial lessons for high schools kids (9th, 10th and 11th graders) and seminarians (only God knows some of their ages and it would be ecclesiastically/politically incorrect to ask). High school starts next Monday, seminary two weeks later.

At this moment I am firmly reminded of the words of Solomon, an ancient wise man of centuries ago:

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As they say in my profession: “That’ll preach.” And so far that is true just for the instructor. It will soon be the lament of my students and their compatriots.

Yet as I wade through all the paperwork and other preparations, it is a labor of love. It is also a critical endeavor. Knowledge is the beginning of power and ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous.

Education provides knowledge, but more than that–the discipline of learning and the accountability needed not only to get a good grade but to live life with competence, confidence, and significance.

Knowing the details of early American politics may not come into daily usefulness for all of my high schoolers, any more than the nuances of biblical interpretation for my seminarians. But the process of learning with its requirement to live by standards of excellence and to use that learning with integrity are survival values for society and the Church.

I love my students too much to let them be wallow in ignorance, shackled by laziness, and handicapped by an uninformed life. And I love our nation, our world, and the Kingdom of God not to do my part in educating.

So now–back to the preparations. May they bear much fruit which will last.

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© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

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BY STEVE DUNN

Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it. Summertime. – STEVE

Summer officially began a week ago. Cool mornings and sunshine.  Later in the day, hot breezes and the sound of lawn mowers and children at play.   At night, fairs and festivals and baseball games. And sometimes thunderstorms rolling in to rock the night and mess up your satellite TV reception. Dips in the pool and Dairy Queen runs.  The smell of backyard barbecues and colorful boom of fireworks.

Although I don’t like the dryness and heat that accompany summertime, I love the season.   If I allow myself to shift gears mentally, summer often brings more freedom and spontaneity to my days.  If I have some money left over after all the bills, I might even manage a vacation somewhere.

This summer I have only a part-time job working for my seminary (to read more about my seminary click WINEBRENNER)  Half-time means 20-25 hours, basically three days a week.  Although it will be tight this summer financially, I never had a summer when I had four days a week off.  A day to do household things and pay the bills–but still with three more days at my discretion and Gods’ prompting.

I am. however, a planner.  I make lists, and keep a paper planner.  I enjoy the thrill of checking things off those lists because I take energy from knowing that I have done something useful, even if half the list or more is yet to be done.

There is a danger in overplanning.  It’s called overdoing.  And overdoing is antithetical to resting, relaxing and refreshing.  So my plans this summer are simply–more aimed at enjoying and stretching my boundaries.  Here is my short list.

* Finish unpacking and hanging the last of the pictures on the wall.  We have only loved in this house for eight months, but there are still boxes in the garage to be unpacked.  We have some great pictures that bless no one in a box.

* Spend more time with Dianne, being in one another’s presence and enjoying one another’s company.  It helps that see in willing to watch the Mlb Channel with me.

* Work on that mystery novel that has lain dormant on legal pads for  too many years.

* Spend more time alone with God and His Word.

Do you have a list?  Summertime has a way of disappearing for those  forget that “to everything there is a season …”  So ENJOY your summer.

 

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

STATUE OF LIBERTY

In this June 2, 2009 photo, the Statue of Liberty is seen in New York harbor. The crown is set to open July 4 after being closed since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

BY STEVE DUNN

In New York harbor sits one of the most famous landmarks in the world–the Statue of Liberty.  Engraved on “Miss LIberty” are these words–a poem called “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

When I was but a schoolboy in western Ohio, I was taught these words, then marked as a symbol of the incredible core values that drove my nation’s actions.

Over the 65 years of my life I have met countless people drawn to this nation because of the twin promises of liberty and opportunity–people enriched by their coming and often enriching our nation because they came.

Post 9-11 America finds itself hard-pressed to live out these values.  Under the threat of Isis and other terrorists movements, we seem intent on closing that ‘golden door.”  Not completely.  People like us politically, whose religion does not threaten ours, whose economic goals do not undermine us, who will not compete for our resources, and who will embrace the prevailing secular individualism of the age–these people are still welcome.

I share our concerns about national security and obedience to the laws of the land; but sometimes I fear that the grace and compassion, the commitment to liberty for all peoples is being eroded or being replaced with a selfish inwardness that violates one of the most fundamental laws of the God I honor’ “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Is it possible to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this nation without quenching that lamp beside the Golden Door?

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

 

BY STEVE DUNN

My mother was a beautiful woman – both physically and spiritually.  If she was still living, today would be the 66th wedding anniversary of Marilyn Reames and A. Gail Dunn.  My mother died in 2000 of cancer, just a few months past their 50th wedding anniversary.

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They were married on New Year’s Day in the just completed chapel of the new College First of God by their pastor, Dr. Darrell Linder.  Both were students at my denomination’s school Findlay College.  Gail, a native of Columbia City IN was a history major and a cheerleader, a year younger than Marilyn.  He also sang in a quartet called The Gospel Five and was preparing for the ministry.  Marilyn was ultimately training to become a medical technician.  A high school beauty and a member of the College Choir, she came from Zanesfield, Ohio-the daughter of a nominally Christian family that was attending a Friends Meeting when she enrolled in college.  The first time Dad saw Mom, the very first time, he said, “I am going to marry her.”

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My paternal grandparents, TA and Mary Ruth Dunn, were very excited about their beautiful new daughter-in-law; especially she since was a warm, outgoing, and mature Christian.  Her parents did not attend the wedding.  My maternal grandmother, Wynona Reames thought her daughter could have done better than being married to a preacher.  I suspect her husband Robert, who came from a staunchly Methodist family didn’t share her opinion, but Grandma won most arguments in their family.  For the record, a few weeks later, she changed her mind and they showed up at the newlyweds humble lodgings (remember they were both college students) with wedding presents and kisses.  Over the years she came to love my Dad, especially since he loved her only daughter.  (My strong-willed grandmother, however, always insisted on picking up the check.)

A year later Mom dropped out of college to have me.  Dad graduated and was ordained to the ministry of the then Churches of God in North America.  My mother was a stay-at-home Mom

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as they had three more children.  After the youngest, Mark, was born. she went back to college earning her degree in medical technology and enduring the trampoline in gym class, graduating 17 years later as the oldest member of  her class.

Mom and Dad always went to lunch on their anniversary, a tough task since it was New Year’s Day and many restaurants were closed.  Their favorite was the Embers in Carlisle PA.   The first anniversary that Dianne and I enjoyed we went to the Embers, a high class place for college students. Yes, we got married in college, too but Dianne managed to graduate 10 days before our first child was born.

Gail and Marilyn were devoted to one another.  And they passed that devotion to one another in marriage–and a devotion to Jesus Christ, that inspired many.  Later, when Dad became the conference superintendent, they made a ministry of inviting clergy couples to their home for dinner, fellowship and encouragement.  To this day, I continue to meet pastoral couples who consider the ministry Marilyn and Gail provided to them one of the best blessings God had bestowed on them.

I thought celebrating them, especially because of their New Year’s Day wedding, would be my most appropriate first blog post of the New Year.  Better them than the celebs and pols and villains that will occupy center stage in the broader world.

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© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com